Updated May 28, 2013 - 4:42 pm
GOP goes after 2014 House Democratic candidates
PHOENIX -- The National Republican Congressional Committee is getting an early start on its 2014 campaign to keep the GOP in charge of the House.
National and local GOP officials launched a mobile billboard campaign Tuesday in Phoenix and Tucson targeting Democratic U.S. Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber for supporting the national health care law. The NRCC launched a similar effort Tuesday against U.S. Reps. Colin Peterson in Minnesota and John Barrow in Georgia. All the targeted districts represent ``red zones'' where voters backed George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and John McCain during their presidential runs, but voted a Democrat into the House, said Daniel Scarpinato, a NRCC spokesman.
In Arizona, Republicans are also targeting Democratic U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, who represents a GOP-leaning district in metropolitan Phoenix. Sinema, Kirkpatrick and Barber represent ``three of the biggest races in the country,'' as the GOP fends off the Democrat's ongoing effort to take back the House, Scarpinato said. The NRCC wouldn't reveal how much it is spending on the campaign.
``We are really starting early,'' Scarpinato said in a telephone interview. ``Arizona is a big battleground in 2014. Very few states have three competitive, big races like this. So Arizona will literally help determine who controls the U.S. House of Representatives- Republicans or Democrats.''
Republicans are continuing to stake their electoral battle on an effort to overturn President Barack Obama's landmark health care law passed in 2010. In Arizona, that could become an increasingly ineffective rallying cry as Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, who once sued to overturn the health care law, is now urging lawmakers in the GOP-led Legislature to embrace the policy's proposed Medicaid expansion.
Scarpinato said Brewer's support for the Medicaid expansion won't undercut the NRCC's argument against the health care law.
``The governor has been pretty clear that she doesn't support Obamacare and wants it repealed,'' he said.
Arizona Republican Chairman Robert Graham said Brewer's newfound support of the heath care overhaul is tied to the state budget, but portrayed Kirkpatrick and Barber as hypocrites for backing the law.
``It's not only hypocrisy, it's morally wrong,'' he said during a press conference on the 2014 House races outside the Arizona Capitol on Tuesday. ``We are on the offense. We are going to hold people accountable.''
The mobile billboard targeting Kirkpatrick reads, ``Congresswoman Kirkpatrick's Plan: Put the IRS in charge of your health care. Fed up?''
Democrats shrugged off the effort.
``These folks have no clue about rural Arizona,'' said Jennifer Johnson, Kirkpatrick's spokeswoman, in an email. ``While they were gathering in Phoenix to launch a traveling circus, Congresswoman Kirkpatrick was hard at work in her district, honoring our veterans and talking jobs and economic development with small-business owners.''
Democrats hold five of Arizona's nine congressional seats.
Kirkpatrick represents the 1st Congressional District in northern and eastern Arizona, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly 29,000 voters. She served one term in the U.S. House before losing a re-election bid in 2010 to Republican Paul Gosar. He ran for re-election in a different, GOP-centric district in 2012 following redistricting, and Kirkpatrick beat Republican Jonathan Paton in November to return to Congress.
Barber was also elected in November after serving as a former aide to then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Both were wounded in a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson. Arizona's 2nd Congressional District has slightly more Republicans than Democrats.
Barber will decide at the end of the year whether to run for re-election, said Rodd McLeod, his campaign spokesman.
Sinema, a former state legislator, was elected in 2012 as the first representative from the 9th District, which was created as a result of post-Census reapportionment. The district includes Tempe and parts of Phoenix, Chandler and Mesa. It has nearly 9,000 more GOP voters.
The GOP has not singled out any preferred challengers in those races.